Back to top

Nutrient Management

Phosphorus use in cranberry nutrient management

Over the past several years, we have developed a body of research data supporting a new set of Best Management Practices (BMP) recommendations for the use of phosphorus in cranberry fertilizer programs.

View our Best Management Practices for the full nutrient management BMP.
Select: Nutrient Management (2010)

Our current recommendation is to use no more than 20 lb/A of actual P on producing beds and to use substantially less when tissue P is sufficient, especially on native varieties.

As growers have adopted reduced P management, we worked at 7 sites to follow the change in yield and water quality as P was reduced below 20 lb/A.  At the 7 sites, reduced P was NOT related to reduced yield.  At the sites with long term P reduction, water quality has improved (less P in discharge water).  Flood discharges are often the highest source of P export, with harvest floods a greater source than winter floods.  By 2014, we were following 11 sites where P reduction was in place.  For the 5 sites with 5 years or more of data (one with 12 years), the range of reduction in P concentration in harvest discharge was 71-94%. 

Based on survey data collected in 2009, at least half of MA growers were implementing some form of P reduction by the end of the 2008 season.  In a 2015 survey (90 respondents), growers were asked about P use on various cranberry cultivars.  Most growers applied P within the recommended 20 lb/A limit (97% of those growing native cultivars, 88% of those growing older large-fruited cultivars, and 84% of those growing the newest hybrid releases) and a substantial number report applying 10 lb/A or less (41% for native; 25% for older large-fruited; and 21% for newest hybrid cultivars).  Adoption of our research-based extension recommendations has bee excellent.

Current work, in collaboration with Casey Kennedy of USDA-ARS is focused on determining hydrologic N and P budgets for cranberry and looking for ways to further reduce nutrient outputs from cranberry farms.

NE-SARE funded project to look at sustainable cranberry canopy management.  

The primary goal of this 4-year project (ended in spring 2009) was to develop, demonstrate, and implement grower-identified practices on MA cranberry farms that would improve water and plant canopy management to reduce costs and improve pest management.  The UMass team for this project included Sandler, Caruso, Averill, and Vanden Heuvel (first 2 years).  In consultation with a team that included 5 farmers, we identified sanding, pruning, fertilizer use, irrigation, and drainage as the most importance practices to study during this project.  During the project we found that while the practices studied and adopted (especially drainage improvement) had some potential to impact pest management, they had even greater potential for reducing costs, reducing nutrient pollution, conserving water, and sustaining productivity.  We identified five practices that could improve nutrient, water, and canopy management from environmental and/or cost perspectives—pruning (as an alternative to sanding), reduced phosphorus fertilizer, irrigation scheduling with water floats or sensors, installation of drainage tiles, and cycling sprinklers on and off during frost protection (in most cases using automation).

By the end of this project, 197 growers attended on-farm demonstrations; 1340 attended workshops to learn about water, nutrition, and canopy management; 6 established demonstration research areas on their farms; and 6 participated in panel discussions on nutrient management, water conservation, or irrigation scheduling.

In our final survey of 102 growers, representing 5520 acres (~40% of the total acres in MA), 51% reduced P use and 21% had adopted the use of floats or sensors for irrigation scheduling.  We also interviewed 28 growers who self-identified in 2006 as interested in this project and representing 3100 acres (~22% of total).  Of those growers, 75% reduced P use, 39% use sensors or floats to schedule irrigation, 54% have added drainage to their bogs, 25% cycle sprinklers in frost protection, and 46% would substitute pruning for sanding.  Full report may be found at:

Selected publications.

Kennedy, C., P. Kleinman, and C. DeMoranville. 2015. Spatial scale and field management influence patterns of phosphorus loss in cranberry floodwaters. Journal of Environmental Quality.  doi:10.2134/jeq2014.11.0485

Kennedy, C., A. Buda, P. Kleinman, and C. DeMoranville. 2015. Chemical and isotopic tracers illustrate pathways of nitrogen loss in cranberry floodwaters. Journal of Environmental Quality. 44:1326-1332.

DeMoranville, C. 2015. Cranberry nutrient management in southeastern Massachusetts: Balancing crop production needs and water quality. HortTechnology 25(4):471-476.

DeMoranville, C. 2014. Reducing phosphorus use in cranberry production: horticultural and environmental implications. Proc. 10th Int. Symp. on Vaccinium and other Superfruits. Acta Horticulturae (ISHS) 1017:447-453.

Sandler, H. A., C. J. DeMoranville, F. L. Caruso, M. M. Sylvia, A. L. Averill, and J. Vanden Heuvel. 2014. Increasing Sustainability of Massachusetts Cranberry Production through Cultural Management of the Vine Canopy. Proc. 10th Int. Symp. on Vaccinium and other Superfruits. Acta Horticulturae (ISHS) 1017:479-486.

Suhayda, B., C. J. DeMoranville, H. Sandler, W. R. Autio, and J. E. Vanden Heuvel.  2009. Sanding and pruning differentially impact canopy characteristics, yield and economic returns in cranberry. HortTechnology 19: 796-802.

Vanden Heuvel, J. E. and C. J. DeMoranville. 2009. Competition between vegetative and reproductive growth in cranberry. HortScience 44(2):322-327.

DeMoranville, C., B. Howes, D. Schlezinger, and D. White. 2009. Cranberry phosphorus management: How changes in practice can reduce output in drainage water. Acta Horticulturae 810:633-640.

Davenport, J. R., C. DeMoranville, and T. Roper. 2009. Evaluation of six different soil test phosphorus extraction methods for relationship with cranberry. Acta Horticulturae 810:627-632.

DeMoranville, C. J. 2006. Cranberry best management practice adoption and conservation farm planning in Massachusetts.  HortTechnology. 16(3):393-397.